Here’s a recent photo of the Ornamental Grass garden, one of six gardens that make up the Okanagan Xeriscape Demonstration Garden located at 4075 Gordon Drive in front of the H2O Center in Kelowna.
In the hot and dry weather of summer, plants accustomed to more humid and cooler climates lose their luster and droop, even if we water them a lot.
Alternatives can be just as beautiful, colorful and interesting, but they do better in the near-desert climate of the Okanagan Valley.
Xeriscape is gardening or landscaping with the natural conditions you live in, rather than fighting against them. This involves using drought tolerant plants in the dry Okanagan, so it’s a great way to conserve water. The Okanagan’s second largest water use is open landscapes, with agriculture/food production at the top of the list.
As executive director of the Okanagan Xeriscape Association, I suggest you consider trading your water-absorbing cedars for yews, persimmons, Oregon grape, mock orange or lilac trees, and ditch the accented hybrid tea rose and drought-tolerant perennials. purple, red or white echinacea, yellow rudbeckia, blue Russian sage and / or red stonecrop.
For best results, plan ahead and remember the color of the leaves as well as the flowers so that your garden is a kaleidoscope of color from spring to fall. Shape is also important in the garden, and remember that shorter perennials or annuals look better in front of taller ones.
Don’t try to replant your entire landscape at once. Instead, choose a sunny watering area to start the transformation. Then you can reduce the amount of water for that zone over the next year or two as the new plants become established.
Fall is a good time of year to introduce new plants to the garden as they have a chance to get established in the cooler weather and by spring they are ready to put on a summer show.
Remember that bulbs are the perfect drought-tolerant splash of color for the spring garden, but many should be planted in the fall. Their leaves will die in the summer heat and they won’t need water at that time of year.
One exception is the fall crocus, which provides a surprise patch of beautiful color when many other flowers have finished their display for the season.
This long blue lake that stretches along the floor of the Okanagan Valley is deceptive, suggesting that the Okanagan has plenty of water to withstand a drought, but in reality, if we push it too far, it can’t recover every winter and spring.
We rely on spring snowmelt to be stored in mountain reservoirs around the valley, where we can control flows for summer needs in the valley landscapes and farmland below. Digging a large lake for water is not an option.
For examples of landscaping and plants that can withstand this valley’s dry summer weather, visit the Xeriscape Demonstration Garden created by the Okanagan Xeriscape Association, the UnH2O Garden across from the H2O Aquatic Center on Gordon Drive in Kelowna, or visit a new site. West Kelowna Xeriscape Spirit Square Garden, behind Dairy Queen in downtown Westbank.
Sigrie Kendrick is a Master Gardener and Executive Director of the Okanagan Xeriscape Association. Contact him [email protected] or call 778-363-8360. Visit the website: www.okanaganxeriscape.org
This article was written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.